The fight in the fortified cities of Judah (Jer 34:6-34:7)

“Then the prophet Jeremiah

Spoke all these words

To King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

In Jerusalem.

Meanwhile the army

Of the king of Babylon

Was fighting

Against Jerusalem.

They were also fighting

Against all the cities

Of Judah

That were left.

Lachish,

With Azekah

Were the only fortified cities

Of Judah

That remained.”

As usual, Jeremiah had done what Yahweh wanted him to do. He repeated all the words that Yahweh had told him to say to King Zedekiah. At the same time, that the Babylonian army was attacking Jerusalem, they were also fighting against the only two other remaining fortified cities in Judah, Lachish, about 23 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and Azekah, about 11 miles north of Lachish. Everything else had already been conquered by the Babylonians except for these two cities and Jerusalem.

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Rabshakeh returned to his king (Isa 37:8-37:9)

“Rabshakeh returned to his king.

He found the king of Assyria

Fighting against Libnah.

He had heard

That the king had left Lachish.

Now the king of Assyria heard

Concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia.

‘He has set out to fight against you.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. Rabshakeh wanted to return to his king to let him know what was happening in Jerusalem. However, the king of Assyria had left Lachish to fight against the town of Libnah since Lachish and Libnah were about 10 miles apart in the Judah territory, about 25 miles west of Jerusalem. The Assyrian king also got word that the Ethiopian King Tirhakah was setting out to fight against him. This King Tirhakah is sometimes known as Taharqa. As a young 20 year old general, he fought with King Sennacherib in Palestine. He then served as king of Egypt and Ethiopia from 690-664 BCE. So he would not have been king when this occurred about 10-15 years earlier. Nevertheless, there was a constant war between these two great Mideast powers, Egypt and Assyria.

 

The officials meet in Jerusalem (Is 36:2-36:3)

“The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh

With a great army,

From Lachish

To King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.

He stood by the conduit of the upper pool,

On the highway to Fuller’s Field.

There came out to them Eliakim,

Son of Hilkiah,

Who was in charge of the palace,

Shebnah the secretary,

With Joah son of Asaph,

The recorder.”

This is a lot like 2 Kings, chapter 18, except that there is no mention of the Tartan General Rabsaris here.   The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh, who was his chief steward or cup bearer, from Lachish to Jerusalem with a big army. King Hezekiah sent out the man in charge of his palace, Eliakim, his secretary, Shebnah, and his recorder, Joah. They met at the upper pool near Fuller’s Field. This Fuller’s Field on the northwest side of Jerusalem must have been well known. A “fuller” is someone who works with cloth to get it the right color. Thus near a pool sounds about right. The names Eliakim and Joah refer to 4 other people in biblical literature, other than these two men. However, the name Shebnah only appears in this story.

King Hezekiah (Sir 48:17-48:22)

“King Hezekiah fortified his city.

He brought water into its midst.

He tunneled the sheer rock

With iron tools.

He built cisterns for the water.

In his days,

Sennacherib invaded the country.

He sent his commander from Lachish.

He departed.

He shook his fist against Zion.

He made great boasts in his arrogance.

Then their hearts were shaken.

Their hands trembled.

They were in anguish,

Like women in labor.

But they called upon the Lord

Who is merciful.

They spread out their hands

Toward him.

The Holy One quickly heard them

From heaven.

He delivered them

Through Isaiah.

The Lord struck down

The camp of the Assyrians.

His angel wiped them out.

King Hezekiah did

What was pleasing to the Lord.

He kept firmly to the ways

Of his ancestor King David.”

Of all the kings from King Solomon to the captivity, Sirach singled out King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) of Judah, based on the stories in 2 Kings, chapters 18-20, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 29-32. He was the king who followed Yahweh’s commandments, during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Just before his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. During his reign the population grew from 5,000 at the time of King Solomon to about 25,000 people because of the many migrant Israelites from the north. Thus King Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem by building walls around it with tunnels to get water that has been verified by archeological discoveries. Ten years later, King Sennacherib decided to invade Judah. He sent his general Rabshakeh from Lachish to negotiate a deal, but King Hezekiah went to the prophet Isaiah for advice. Despite the fears of the folks in Jerusalem, Isaiah said not to yield. King Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh. King Sennacherib of Assyria decided not to invade the city, but 185,000 of his troops were wiped out by an angel of the Lord. Thus King Hezekiah was pleasing to the Lord like King David.

The villages of Judah (Neh 11:25-11:30)

“As for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, Dibon and its villages, Jekabzeel and its villages, Jeshua, Moladah, Beth-pelet, Hazar-shual, Beer-sheba and its villages, Ziklag, Meconah and its villages, En-rimmon, Zorah, Jarmuth, Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beer-sheba to the valley of Hinnom.”

Nehemiah mentioned 17 towns outside of Jerusalem. Bethlehem is not mentioned.   Some of these towns had villages and fields, while others did not. Some were way south while others were in the western or central parts of Judah. Kiriath-arba may refer to Hebron, about 10 miles south of Jerusalem. Dibon, Jeshua, Moladah were southern towns in Judah, south of Hebron. This is the only mention of Jekabzeel and Meconah. Beth-pelet, Hazar-shual, and Beer-sheba were on the southern border with Edom. Ziklag, a place where David was, En-rimmon, and Lachish were in the southwest bordering with the old Philistine towns. Zorah is on the northwest side of Judah in old Dan territory. Jarmuth, Zanoah, Adullam, and Azekah were in central Judah.

The end of the reign of King Amaziah (2 Chr 25:25-25:28)

“King Amaziah son of King Joash of Judah lived fifteen years after the death of King Joash son of Jehoahaz of Israel. Now the rest of the deeds of King Amaziah, from first to last, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? From the time that King Amaziah turned away from Yahweh they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem. He fled to Lachish. But they went after him to Lachish. They killed him there. They brought him back on horses. He was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.”

Once again this is based on 2 Kings, chapter 14, almost word for word. We have the confusion of names. The father of King Amaziah was King Joash of Judah, while King Joash of Israel was the king who he fought with and lost. Of course, if you want more information, check with the lost “Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel.” I am not sure whether this is referring to the biblical book of Kings, or the lost annals about the kings of Judah and Israel. I am actually surprised that the kingship still existed in Judah after the defeat by King Joash of Israel. This was the same with King Jehu, who killed the king of Judah. The northern kings seem to step back after almost annihilating Judah and its kings. King Amaziah seems to have outlived King Joash until some kind of conspiracy rose up against him. They killed him in Lachish, which is southwest of Jerusalem. They actually may have been the children whose fathers King Amaziah had killed at the beginning of his reign. However, they brought back his body to bury him in Jerusalem with his ancestors.

King Rehoboam fortifies cities in Judah (2 Chr 11:5-11:12)

“King Rehoboam resided in Jerusalem. He built cities for defense in Judah. He built up Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. There were fortified cities in Judah and in Benjamin. He made the fortresses strong. He put commanders in them. They had stores of food, oil, and wine. He also put large shields and spears in all the cities. He made them very strong. So he held Judah and Benjamin.”

There is no other source for this material here. Certainly some of these 15 cities already existed. This was a defensive gesture. He seems to have fortified them with shields, spears, food, commanders, and troops. These cities became strong fortresses against any enemy. Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, just 6 miles south of Jerusalem. Etam was about 2 miles southwest of Bethlehem. Tekoa was about 6 miles south of Bethlehem. Beth-zur was on the main road between Jerusalem and Hebron, about 4 miles north of Hebron, which was about 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Adullam was about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem and about 10 miles west of Bethlehem. Gath was 1 of the 5 major cities of the Philistines that has been lost, but was on the west side of Judah. Mareshah was also in western Judah, while Ziph was in southern Judah. Adoraim only appears here but probably is a lost southwest town near the sea. Lachish was about 15 miles west of Hebron, probably close to Azekah. Zorah and Aijalon were western cities that were originally in the territory of Dan. About a half of these cities were within 20 miles of Jerusalem. Most of the fortified cities were in the south and west since the Dead Sea was on the east and Benjamin and northern Israel was to the north.